Invitation Strictly Personal
One of the first ‘in conversations’ to be held at the Fashion Museum, manager Rosemary Harden introduced Iain R Webb, the renowned fashion journalist to a select audience of fashion enthusiasts. “I am a hoarder, I hang onto everything and those things then become a collection,” Iain comments frankly, describing how the initial idea for the book came about. ‘Invitation Strictly Personal’ is an intriguing view into the exclusive world of catwalk invitations and with a catalogue spanning 40 years Iain has some particularly wonderful examples.
After stints at Salisbury Art College and then the obligatory Central St Martins Iain wasted no time in joining the privileged fashion circuit. Hotfooting it over to Paris Iain hung around the Paris Fashion Week tent and brazenly asked show invitees if they had a spare ticket, one did, and that marked the beginning, his first big catwalk show – Kenzo A/W 1982.
A face on the London scene Iain quickly moved through fashion ranks editing and writing for the likes o BLITZ, Harpers & Queen, The Times, New York Times and Vogue amongst others. His credibility and position at leading fashion titles ensured that he was a regular on the front row. “Going to the shows is like going to summer camp,” he remarked with a grin. “You’d see the same people, some you wanted to see, some you didn’t. The British press were the most fun to be with, it must be said.”
As expected within the realms of design the invitations could range from pieces of artwork to simple matter-of-fact details. John Galliano, once sent a key with an attached address while Giles Deacon used a badger’s mask (pictured left) for his A/W 07/08 invite. Throughout the book Iain repeatedly uses invitations from John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Jean Paul Gaultier – three highly creative individuals with notable influence within the industry over the last few decades. “I’ve been incredibly lucky to be invited and to see all these shows,” Iain adds humbly, mentioning that he grew up in a small village outside of Bath.
As for his personal favourite invitations Iain mentions several: Firstly, Hussein Chalayan for SS 2000 displaying an image of a young boy holding a remote control device. The very same boy was used in the show to control a mechanised section of a model’s dress. On a more retro vibe was the Moschino 1999 invitation printed on the sleeve of a pattern for a trench coat, complete with pattern inside. He continues to mention a John Rocha invitation that was hand printed and that every single one was unique, “how could anyone throw that away.”
Rosemary wrapped up the talk by asking Iain his thoughts on fashion shows today and the affect that technology will have on the catwalk circuit. “People are definitely watching through their phones now and the way fashion is reported has that ‘access all areas’ element.” Fashion has always been multi faceted and while the catwalk show will always be there designers are using different mediums to present their collections from music to film, dance and performance. Iain adds, “the installation is a big way forward especially for young designers that have small budgets.”
(Ozbek invitation right)
As Iain says, “receiving an invitation marks the beginning of the show experience”, sometimes they provide you with clues, a taste of a print, a colour, a shape, other times they are a complete mystery. And with New York Fashion Week about to kick off the next batch of SS16 invites will be circulating, amongst a select few, very soon.
Invitation Strictly Personal: 40 Years of Fashion Show Invites by Iain R Webb
Forward by Anna Sui on sale now.
By JoJo Iles